"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006




I got about two hours sleep. As always, when I know I have to be up disgustingly early, I find it almost impossible to sleep at all and just managed a couple of hours shut eye before the phone shrieked its early morning call. Bugger.

I was showered, packed and in a taxi to Dulles by 3.45am. A time when I would normally be dreaming of doing something altogether unhygienic with Kirsten Dunst.

Still, it did make the fair old distance to the airport easy to cover and I was on line at the Delta check in by 4.30am. Behind me in the queue were a number of United passengers who were as far from gruntled as it is possible to be after they were told that their flight the night before was “overbooked” and they had been bumped, put up in a hotel and given a massive $12 to buy some food. Unlucky for them, but fortunate for me as I happened to get talking to one of them, a delightful Irish woman who lives in LA but previously lived close to me in London’s most important area.

We spent the next hour before boarding chatting and then I found, to my great pleasure that we were sitting next to each other. Despite the fact we were on the very last row of the plane, the flight to Atlanta from where we were both catching connections seemed far too short. One of the great pleasures of travel is meeting people like this and I am very hopeful we will stay in touch.

Then the much longer and altogether more disagreeable flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas made all the more miserable by the fact that I managed, when running to catch my connection (I suspect ) to drop my camera which is now nowhere to be found. Buggery, buggery, bollocks. It was getting a little long in the tooth but has served me well. I hope whoever picks it up gives it a good home. As for me, I bought a disposable which I will get processed later on. Bear with me.

Las Vegas airport was heaving as I waited for my baggage. There are two major conventions in town as well as the American Country Music Awards (which explained the large number of people wearing Stetsons in the taxi line without a hint of irony ) but, my bags were, for once, off the belt first and I was soon checking in at our hotel, The Excalibur

The rooms are as old and threadbare as the hotel itself. But, it seemed clean and comfortable and I did not have any great plans to stay in the room for any period of time. So, for $100 a night between the two of us, it’ll do me just fine.

My dear chum, Mark, was not getting in from Kansas City until later in the evening. So, after dumping my bags, making doubly sure that I could not find my camera, I went out to explore The Strip.

I have only been to Las Vegas once before when Hermano Primero forked out for me to come over with him in style. First class on Virgin,a couple of nights at Bellagio’s, supper at JG Prime and ringside seats for a big fight. All a bit different this time apart from one thing. I loved it then and I love it now.

There is so much to dislike about Las Vegas. The incredible, constant din from the slot machines, the hard boiled faces of the local residents all of whom seem to have ended up here rather than to have chosen it especially. Like the debris at the end of a terminal moraine as a glacier of civilisation retreats. The seediness seems more obvious that it did in 2001 when the city was trying to promote itself as a family resort. Now, the only family that would feel really comfortable here would be led by Charles Manson. Oh yes, there is Cirque Du Soleil too. The most scarily pointless, most witless piece of crap it has ever been my misfortune to see. They seem to have a show on at just about every casino in town. What the hell is that all about?

For all that, there is still much to adore. The main thing being the sheer hutzpah of it all. Whether you love or loathe it, you do just have to shake your head at the audacity of it all. As I wandered from casino to casino, you do have to admit, however grudgingly, that Las Vegas may just possibly be the best place to have some fun on earth.

Favourites? I think the shopping mall at Caesar’s Palace is hard to beat. The MGM Grand is still the most impressive and Bellagio’s seems to have the best selection of restaurants ( although I have not done an actual comparison.

By 1pm, I was starving, having eaten nothing but a microscopic pack of airline peanuts all day. I was in Bellagio’s and the hunger pangs hit just as I was standing in front of the buffet. So, I did. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did. $25 inc tip brings you all you can eat ( and all the soft drinks you can manage ) from a buffet that, while impressive was not as groaning as I had expected. Meat counters with turkey, lamb, beef and venison. Seafood counters with a variety of shrimp. Asian offerings from stir fries to sushi, salads, soups, cheeses and desserts. There is little chance that you will go hungry but equally little chance that you will eat anything that would ever make you want to go back there. Bellagio’s is, I am told, one of the best in town and one of the more expensive. How lousy must the others be then? Still, I can understand why people queue up to use them. The person I saw having lunch next to me returned to the buffet at least eight times and came back with enough food each time to feed a family. By the time he came back with his desserts, I was ready to offer him a “wafer thin mint” It was an outstanding performance. Me? I did all right, but nowhere in that league.

Afterwards, a walk was much in need and I strolled a little further down the strip about as far as Treasure Island before heading back to the hotel to freshen up and wait for Mark to arrive.

By the time he did, it was about 7.30pm and, after freshening up we were ready to take a stroll and have a pre dinner drink.

First across to CENTRIFUGE a bar in the MGM where we drank over priced bottles beer and a young cocktail waitress climbed on to the counter and shook, what Mark called her “booty” in my face. Quite inappropriate. I wonder if her mother knows she behaves like that.

Then after another drink at the bar at Emeril’s, off to our main meal of the night.

What can I tell you? Not quite a disaster from start to finish, but pretty close.

We arrived in time for our 9.30pm reservation to be told they were a little behind and would we mind waiting for 10 minutes at the bar. I don’t mind that, if I can get to the bloody bar. Here it was five deep. I tried to sit at a bar table and was told that they were for dinner only and I had to get to the bar. “how?” I asked the waitress. “where exactly do you think I might be able to get to the bar?” Nonplussed, she just pointed again at the throng at the bar.

When we did finally manage to get a seat there, it was now 20 minutes after our reservation time and counting. A quick word with the hostess did no good as she said they were now running about 30 minutes behind. I got a bit assertive at this point and suggested that there was a good reason I booked at 9.30pm and not 10pm. Finally, we got to our table about 35 mins later.

It all went a bit downhill from there.

Some slabs of blah bread were deposited on the table with some over salted butter. We will get back to the propensity to oversalt later.

For a starter, we both ordered the Spring Garlic Soup. Not bad at all apart from, you guessed it, the oversalting.
Then for main courses, Mark had a 16oz NY Strip and I went for a 16oz Rib eye. Mark’s seemed to be cooked to his liking, medium rare, but mine was so far off the black& blue I wanted that I had to send it back. It was medium. This is a steak place, right? So they should know how to cook a steak. They brought it back about 10 mins later by which time Mark had almost demolished his steak and I had kept hunger at bay by eating the perfectly fine sides of spinach and onion rings.

This time it was cooked to order with a good crust. But, they had achieved this not with a hot searing pan but by even more over use of the salt. I ploughed through a chunk of it but had to leave over half to avoid hypertension. Quite the worst steak I have had on the trip.

We did not bother with desserts and coffee so got our bill a whopping $200 for two for a meal that was nowhere near as good as that we had recently at the Weber place. Shameful. A really grim meal.

Afterwards, a stroll through The Tropicana and to The Hooters Casino ( for research purposes only, of course ) and The Luxor ( where someone mistook me for Vin Deisel!! - in what way do I look like a bald fat man with no future. Oh, I see what they meant) before we were both ready to crash

Tomorrow, The Liberace Museum. So at least I will get my portion of fruit for the day
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